We are winding up the year --the state "end of course" exams have come and gone, but we still have a few weeks to go.
We have started using Understanding by Design, part of which requires crafting essential questions for each unit. For evolution I asked if humans were inevitable.
Some of the children were understandably upset by the question--good questions will do that. Next year I may tone it down a bit, perhaps ask if wallabies or bees or amoeba or turtles were inevitable. It's really the same question.
I teach in a public high school in a mixed town, but most of our students come from clans that follow either the story of Isaac or Ishmael, both, of course, sons of Abraham. Origins matter.
Several times this year our classes have stumbled on the edge of what is known, or even empirically knowable. How did life start?
Evolution gets you here once you have the primordial ooze teeming with life, but it does not answer the question. The cell theory tells you each cell came from a pre-existing cell, it's turtles all the way down, but it also does not answer the question: how did the spark arise?
I do not know. I am fifty and I do not know, nor will I in my lifetime.
I do know this much, though--I know life ends.
I like to fish, and I like to eat fish. I do not, however, like to slaughter fish. Killing a fish squirming in your hand removes ambiguity--it was alive, it is now dead, I killed it.
I kill hundreds, thousands of organisms every day, as most of us do. We drive. We use coal. We eat industrial food raised using industrial methods. We bathe in chlorinated water. We swipe anti-bacterial deodorants under our arms without thinking.
Killing a vertebrate with my hands, however, still gives me pause.
Stun the fish, then bleed it. Put it on ice. Sounds simple, until you feel the muscle writhing in your grasp.
The western option is to ignore the whole act.
That's why most of us die in institutions now.
The baby died at home, not unexpectedly.
The father then brought the baby back to the hospital, and once in the nursery announced he had his dead son in his arms. I was called to "fix" the situation.
I was ill last week--not ill enough to stop me, but enough to remind me that energy is a gift. I did most of what is expected of me, but not all.
I'm mortal, as we all are, but it's not something discussed much in the classroom.
Where did the first cells come from? A science question.
Can we replicate it? A technological question.
Should we? An ethical question.
Why? A religious one.
So I teach the cell theory, point out its flaw, and then teach evolution and defend its perceived "flaws." Life might be inevitable, but we're certainly not.
The snow peas are on the bush, the first strawberries are reddening. Taste one, then the other, and the machine, this machine, matters less.
Taste them again, and this machine no longer matters at all.
I may be spending less time here.